Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018)

Raising Passionate Jesus Followers; The Power of Intentional ParentingI have enjoyed Phil and Diane Comer’s book, Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting. The authors who have been married for nearly 40 years, have raised four children and are grandparents to what they describe as a “cadre” of grandkids. Their life experience has equipped them to offer their seasoned advice for other parents.

…we invite you into our imperfect, messy, broken story so that you can catch glimpses of our Redeemer and the amazing grace He delights in bringing into your own less-than-ideal family.

They give real-life examples from their own experience about what did and didn’t work for them. They’re quick to admit their shortcomings as parents and the reality that there are no perfect parents. But being intentional in your parenting can make all the difference, they say. Raising Passionate Jesus Followers is a guide for creating in your child a heart that beats for God.

Strategies are given for parenting during different stages of child development. The Comers liken parenting to a building project: formulating the plan, laying the foundation (birth through age 5), doing the framing (ages 6-12), installing the functional systems (ages13-17), and opening the front door. 

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that my husband and I didn’t have these skills when our children were growing up. Yet at the same time, there is confirmation that we did a lot of things right! The authors insights are helpful even now that we’re grandparents.

Phil and Diane Comer provide biblically-based parenting guidelines filled with encouragement–no matter where you are on your parenting journey.  Their principles can be summed up in this way:

What matters most is loving God with passion and loving others on purpose.

It’s this combination that gives children the opportunity to grow up to be passionate Jesus followers and to pass on this legacy to their own children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Billy Graham: I’m One of the Lives You Touched

Billy Graham's life and ministry touched countelss lives“We all have a Billy Graham story,” one of his daughters said at his funeral last Friday. It’s true. The Reverend Billy Graham touched countless lives during his decades of ministry, including mine.

In 1979, I attended the Billy Graham Crusade on Okinawa, Japan. My husband Randy was stationed at Kadena Air Base, and we had just completed our first of three years living overseas. For months, the Christian community buzzed with excitement preparing for the crusade.

As a new Christian, I was curious about what the big deal was…but I soon found out. A crowd packed the stadium that night. Since Randy was away on temporary duty, our two young sons and I tagged along with some friends. We had seats up high in the stadium and no big screens to see close-up shots of the stage. But Rev. Graham’s message rang out loud and clear.

He presented the gospel simply and directly with his easy drawl. “Ya’ll come,” he said at the conclusion of his sermon. “Come just as you are.” Suddenly throngs of people streamed toward the field. Billy Graham encouraged people to keep coming. The hymn, “Just As I Am” accompanied the long lines of people going forward to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Let the Little Children Come

“Mommy, I have to go forward,” 5-year old Jeremy tugged at my hand.

“Oh, honey, ” I said to my young son, ” it’s wonderful that you want to go forward, but we can pray right here.” Making our way through the crowds and down onto the field seemed daunting.

Yet Jeremy insisted. “No, I need to go forward!”

I looked at my friends. How could we discourage this little guy? We all agreed. We inched our way down the stairs and onto the field. It was a moment I won’t ever forget. Hundreds of counselors waited for each person who came.  Now I understood why this event required months of preparation. It wasn’t just about hearing an inspiring message. Making a decision to follow Jesus meant taking action and having a follow-up plan. Both of our sons became Christians that night. They each received a small red New Testament Bible, as Jeremy recently reminded me. That night on Okinawa, our faith grew wings. Two little boys, now grown men, have memories of the night when they gave their lives to Jesus Christ.

At his father’s service, Ned Graham, described his father as being F.A.T. –Faithful, Available, and Teachable. I’m thankful he was all three. Because Billy Graham came to a remote island many years ago, our lives were changed.

 

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children: Trusting God with the Ones You Love (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

Praying the Scriptures for your Adult ChildrenI’m a mom of two adult sons. I’ve learned no matter what age they are, you never stop worrying or caring about them. That’s why Jodie Berndt’s excellent book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children is so appealing.

Each chapter focuses on some aspect of your adult child’s life. These are what keep moms awake at night as we search for just the right words to pray. Topics include praying for a future spouse, a young marriage, a troubled marriage, finding the right job, and finding friends who are supportive and encouraging. The author has interviewed many other parents and shares their own stories and struggles to let go of their adult children. I love hearing from other parents who have come through challenging times. There’s something powerful  about knowing you’re not alone–and to be reminded that we really can trust God with the ones we love.

What a privilege it is for us, as parents, to be able to slip our hand into the hand of our heavenly Father and join him in the continuing work that he is doing in our adult children’s lives. And what a joy, as we allow the words of Scripture to shape our perspective and transform our prayers, to be given a window into God’s heart. -Jodie Berndt

The author uses “prayer principles” throughout the book to highlight important truths. Each chapter ends with real prayers drawn from scripture that you can use for yourself and for your children.

I now consider this my “go-to” book to help me pray for my sons and my daughter-in-law.  As Jodie Berndt says, “It’s never too late to start praying God’s best for your children.”

Thanks to Handlebar Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You (Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz, 2017)

Brave Beauty devotional book for girlsWhile reading Brave Beauty, a devotional for tween girls,  I couldn’t help but think of how much I would’ve appreciated a book like this when I was growing up. Those preteen years are the beginning of an awkward time for girls. I remember having so many doubts about myself and whether or not I fit in. Author Lynn Cowell does an excellent job making readers feel understood and valued.

The book is comprised of 100 mini chapters, courage-building ways for readers to find answers by growing confident in God. Topics range from family, self-worth and friends, to faith, forgiveness and loving difficult people. The author uses a simple, yet effective style to communicate godly wisdom. Each chapter includes a brief example/story followed by a “Becoming Brave” practical challenge and a “Courageous Call” to action. The bite-sized chapters will appeal to young readers–and “older” readers, too, as I find myself looking forward to what’s coming next!

The author offers this gem: It takes bravery to be a girl who thinks people are more important than things. The culture we live in makes “stuff” like clothes and the newest phone so important. A brave beauty recognizes that people are more important than things.

So true and important for girls to learn this when bombarded by a culture that values materialism.

If you have a young girl in your life, get her Brave Beauty. It could be life-changing!

 

 

Moms: Our Real Heroes

Moms: our real heroes

Mom & me

I just spent the past several weeks with my hero, my mom. Diagnosed with colon cancer in December, she chose to  have the surgical procedure–difficult under any circumstances, but especially at age 90.

As her surgical team prepped her on that early Tuesday a.m., they all remarked at how amazing she is for a woman her age. “We don’t see many 90-year-olds come through here,” one nurse commented. “Usually their health is compromised and there are too many risks.”

Mom and I both knew that even though she’s strong, this surgery presented lots of unknowns. We prayed together the night before and attempted to say good-byes–just in case. I hugged her extra long before they wheeled her into the OR. A compassionate nurse called me several times while I waited during the almost 4-hour surgery to assure me everything was going well.

While I helped Mom during her recovery, I had time to think about what makes a mom a hero. A while back, I had chatted with Mom and thanked her (you can never say it enough) for all those little things that made a difference while my brothers (four of them!) and I grew up. Things like always being there, packing school lunches, staying up late to sew cute new outfits for me–and for my dolls, too. Mom’s response to my gratitude surprised me. “I don’t think I did anything special,” she said. “I did what moms are supposed to do.”

Maybe that’s an important part of the mom/hero equation. They don’t think they’re doing anything out of the ordinary. They simply do what moms are supposed to do.

I love this quote from Jill Churchill in her book, Grime and Punishment, There’s no way to be a perfect mother–and a million ways to be a good one.

My mom is the first person to admit she wasn’t a perfect mom. It’s the million other ways that she was and is a good mom that make all the difference. So take heart if you’re in the thick of momhood. Once you accept you’ll never be perfect at it, then you can consider the myriad ways to be the hero/mom who leaves her kids and grandkids a lasting legacy.

Some of my mom’s “good-mom” techniques:

  • Be committed.  Mom was all in. 100% there for us. That’s no easy task day-in and day-out with a tribe of kids. We never wondered if she would be home when we came in from school or playing outside. We never once worried if she would have dinner prepared or if she’d be there to tuck us in at night. She was always there–except for the day she gave birth to our youngest sibling– but we’ll overlook that!
  • Set high standards. Mom insisted that we tow the mark. We learned to be honest, to care about others, to help with chores (without getting paid) and without complaining. We knew better than to be disrespectful. She had a zero-tolerance policy.
  • Give selflessly. When I became a mom, I realized this was hard work–without vacations. You’re always a mom. You really can’t take a break or go on a sabbatical. Mom’s job consisted of being home full-time. She tended to the needs of five uniquely different children, managed mountains of laundry, cooked, cleaned and stayed up late to get it done.
  • Stand up for what you believe is right. Mom loved imparting her wisdom and values to us. In the early 1970s when I was a young adult, Mom expressed her opinions on some of the crazy cultural views–like something called “open marriage.” The purveyors of this philosophy touted the advantages of having multiple partners to”enhance” your marriage. Mom didn’t mince words. Those ideas had no place in our family. Period. (I recently read a review on the book, Open Marriage. The reviewer said it was a bad idea in 1970 and it still is  today). Mom knew what she was talking about!

I’m thankful God’s plan for my mom’s life included more time for me to thank her again for being my hero. You really can’t say it enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges of the Sandwich Generation: Learning to Celebrate All of Life

It won’t be long ’til we say hello to our baby granddaughter!

I learned today that I’m part of the Club Sandwich generation. According to Wikipedia, we’re typically in our 50’s or 60’s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children, and grandchildren.  I guess they call this a “club” because there are so many of us–7-10 million!

It’s a bittersweet time in my life. In December, my mom and I and my four siblings made the difficult but necessary choice to place my dad in a dementia care facility. We enlisted the help of an excellent aging well consultant, Liz Taylor/Aging Deliberately from the Seattle area.

“There are solutions,” Liz told us. “All of them are difficult. But you can do this!” Her guidance and support steadied Mom and me, giving us courage and strength to do what was best for her and dad. To our surprise, the much-dreaded event of taking Dad to his new home went more smoothly than expected. Mom and I envisioned a tearful, heart-wrenching moment of leaving Dad there. Instead, our hearts were buoyed by the warm welcome Dad received from the staff. When we kissed him good-bye, he held up the Christmas cookie he was munching on and said, “See you soon!”

Of course, this has been a time of mixed emotions…grief in facing the loss of the dad I’ve known as he slowly slips into the fog of dementia. But also relief as we acknowledge the reality of his condition. This is without a doubt the very best for Dad–and Mom, who was exhausted by her heroic caregiving efforts.

On the other side of this long good-bye is a much-anticipated hello to a sweet grandbaby girl (our first grandchild!) who is due to arrive any day now. In January, I had the wonderful privilege of being with Jeremy and Jen for the baby ultrasound, a wow experience! The tech showed us some 4-D images of this tiny baby who weighed in at less than a pound. I uttered an audible gasp when the ultrasound wand brought her face into view, showing her features and perfectly formed hands with two fingers in her miniature nostrils. We all chuckled as I reached for the Kleenex–strategically placed for emotional parents and grandparents. What a moment…love at first sight! I can hardly wait to cradle her in my arms. These are the miracles of life, the comings and the goings, all in God’s perfect timing…all to be cherished.

So instead of bemoaning the fact that I’m part of Club Sandwich–I want to focus instead on celebrating all of life.

How are you coping with being a member of this not-so-elite “club?”

Coming Soon: Kosmo’s Christmas Delivery

Joey's cover art

Joey Palmberg’s cover art

I’m so excited about the upcoming launch of Kosmo’s Christmas Delivery. I had a hunch our dogs, Kramer and Kosmo, would be excellent characters for a children’s book. They’ve certainly racked up enough adventures over the past 15 years with a significant amount of trouble accompanying their antics. Yep, that’s capital T for trouble! I once thought if Kosmo were a monkey, he could be Curious George’s cousin. How can one small dog create so much chaos?

Even though Kosmo’s Christmas Delivery is fiction–it’s inspired by real life events. No doubt about it, Kosmo is a big dog in a little dog’s body. He likes to hop on board the UPS truck when we have a delivery, charge into the grocery story if he’s off-leash and the doors conveniently open, or race through any local restaurant–if the doors are open. In fact, if any door is open, it’s a neon sign inviting Kosmo to come right in!

Once when Kosmo escaped in my parents’ neighborhood, an open door to a neighbor’s house looked particularly inviting. A man sat on a couch reading with at least 5 cats perched behind him. Yikes! I could only imagine the bedlam if Kosmo found that open door. I politely asked the man if he minded closing his door so we could avoid all that.

Another time, Kosmo got loose when we were visiting our son. Even though his back yard was fenced, that sneaky Kosmo found a way out. We searched the neighborhood and couldn’t believe it when we saw Kosmo leading a parade of other dogs who were chasing him, followed by a frustrated dog-owner trying to retrieve his dog.

Joey Palmberg, Kosmo’s illlustrator, is working hard to complete the illustrations which are beyond cute. It’s been fun to see how pictures bring the story to life. I can’t wait to finish the book so we can send it out into the world. We’re planning a mid-October release. Stay tuned!

 

In God’s Care

Last Sunday I had nursery duty at our church. I always enjoy taking my turn, because I remember how challenging it was trying to keep wriggling toddlers still for the duration of the service. Moms and dads really deserve a break on Sunday mornings. How much easier it is to throw in the towel and stay home rather than getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door–an exhausting and nerve-wracking experience for many of us moms. I recall arriving at church feeling way-less-than spiritual after using my outdoor voice to communicate with our sons during the ten-minute drive to church.

Since I now attend a small church, we usually have only one or two toddlers in our nursery on a Sunday morning. I put out a bucket of crayons, every color of the rainbow and more, so they can color their weekly Sunday school pictures. Then we read stories–Bob the Builder is a favorite, and eat snacks, usually Cheerios or Goldfish crackers. But this past Sunday, the usual crew had graduated to the preschool group, so I just had one infant to care for. I spent the entire hour cuddling baby Brandon. He snuggled into the curve of my neck, making sweet cooing sounds. His silky hair and soft skin still had that fresh newborn fragrance.

As I held him, I couldn’t help but think of our own grown sons who once spent Sunday mornings being held by faithful nursery workers. I thought of the promise of holding grandchildren some day and the privilege of sowing love and other Christian virtues into their lives. I remembered being 10-years-old and holding my newborn baby brother with my mom’s watchful guidance.

Babies bring a sense of wonder, tiny packages of life-time potential. I prayed for baby Brandon, entrusted to my care for an hour on a Sunday morning. For only a few short years, our children are in our care, subject to our influence. Then they become more independent, venturing off on their own to after-school events or to a friend’s house to play. Soon they’re applying for drivers licenses, colleges, and jobs in far away places. Finally, we simply have to entrust them to God’s care and pray that He will guide them in making wise life choices.

There’s a time when we realize we no longer have control, a time to let go and let God work in their lives. I pray that God will do what I don’t have the power to do in my sons’ lives, or in my homeless baby brother’s life, or for our precious nursery babies.  Dear Lord, please bless them and keep them always in Your care.

Are you struggling to let go of someone you love?